I Know The Plans I Have For You …

KevinIn Sunday’s Abbey of the Arts email there is a look at Kevin, a Celtic saint, who lived in Glendalough and was said to have put his arms out the windows of his cell to pray and whilst he had his arms outstretched a bird nested in his upraised hand and he stayed still till the chicks had left the nest. A crazy story but what I like about it this idea, that Christine runs with of plans and how our plans can change. I am sure Kevin’s plans were not to spend three months with his arms outstretched but he did.

In the email Christine says “How many times in our lives do we reach out our hands for a particular purpose, and something else arrives?”

And then goes on to encourage us reading to think of how we react to the unexpected when it arrives.

For me this is encouraging. I don’t think we came here with a plan but there was rough idea. What has happened is different. I think for me, with some of the things I felt I was getting when journalling about the coming year was about getting a calling to this town and getting involved with local church, etc, having some kind of therapeutic writing ministry, and working in local schools a couple of days a week. This has not been the case.

Mind you Sunday for me at church was a bit like that. Ian had gone off with his younger

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Me second from the left

sister climbing in Snowdonia and I decided to visit the local Anglican church. We had been three or four times before so it wasn’t something new. I had seen a spiritual director on Thursday and one of his suggestions had been to just go to a church building and sit in the back. This was my plan. Dog was walked, husband was out for the day, I would just go and sit for an hour and let the service wash over me. That did not happen. Apparently, even though this church has no young families it still does a family style service on the fifth Sunday of the month. It was all low key but the vicar’s plan was that a few people in the congregation would be dressed up to be paraded down the red carpet as an example of honouring and encouraging people. Well some how I got pick in my corner of the church and was dressed up and walked to the front of the church with four other people, all of us giggling away. Not what I had planned but part of His plan?

It seemed to say to me that we have to be willing to put out our hands, to turn up, and just wait. We had expectations about being here but they are very different from what we expected. The Airbnb is going great but we keep getting an overspill of people who come to this area to work who want accommodation. So a room that we had not expected to use because it still has some stuff that needs to make it to the loft, is being used already. My time of going out to work hasn’t happened because I do need to be home to clean, to do the admin, to be here to welcome people when they arrive.

 

540x293_20141228_d7cd1636aea23361de15710d6933b6f3_jpgIt is about being willing to stretch out, to just be and then let God. It is trusting that He does know that plans He has for us but it isn’t like I feel we hear in many churches. I have often heard in sermons that God has plans for us and we need to go and find them and make sure we do them. It is back to us making sure we “get it right”. But now I am hearing through this story of Kevin and Christine’s thoughts on it that we just need to stretch out, to be willing and ready, and just let God sort those plans out.

So no it was not my plan to go to church and be all dressed up, but I do think it was God’s. I just showed up and said Yes when I was volunteered. The same is true for us with the Airbnb and our home. We put our house out there and then we wait for God to sort out who it is He wants staying here.

So much simpler!

I Wish I was My Dog …

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Dog rolling in the sand

One good reason is that he gets me for an owner but the real reason I would love to be my dog is the fact that he seems able to forget the horrid things in his life. I know there are dogs that are traumatised when they are puppies that do appear to remember those things and behave sometimes badly because of it. But Renly was treated well in those early years and seems to be very chilled because of it.

Yesterday he had an incident with a very large, very hairy black Alsation. The dog went for him and at one point appeared to have his jaws around Renly’s middle. The dog then let him go. Renly ran to me and I was able to grab the dog by the collar and scruff of the neck. Renly and I then went briskly down to the beach where I tried all sorts to get him to come to me so I could feel him all over to check he was ok. He wouldn’t come to me and kept running away with his tail between his legs and almost glaring at me. He only let me touch him when we saw a lady we had met before. He then sat at her feet and let her stroke him then let me stroke him. He seemed back to his chirpy self then.

Today i was nervous of going to the beach because of this dog but also because I was

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Dog in the pub in Ireland

concerned that Renly would react badly and be scared. I made sure we were a bit later so we wouldn’t bump into them. But you would have thought the incident had never happened. Renly showed no signs of fear or even slight anxiety.

He has a great memory. In fact just before the incident yesterday he had run to a lady he gets treats from. Today she was later and so Renly set off to get his treat and to play with her dog. In fact he remembers all the people who give him treats and will run up to them, often leaving me a way behind. And the other day we had friends come to visit and he loves their dog but they hadn’t seen each other for 8 months , and in a totally different place, but Renly recognised her and greeted her with such enthusiasm. He remembers key people in his life even if he hasn’t seen them for ages. He seems able to tell with my children that they are family and the boyfriends/girlfriends they bring he isn’t so close to. Yes he is warm and friendly because he’s that sort of dog but his greetings are very different.

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Dog at Wellington Memorial, Phoenix Park, Dublin

So yes I want to be my dog. To be able to remember the good things in life and forget the bad. To be able to not get phased by something that happened once but to be able to let it go and to continue to enjoy the good things in life  – which for him are treats, hugs, beach, car and family.  Simple life!

Blasphemy

eleanor-of-aquitaine-hI have been reading lots of historic novels set in early Norman/Plantagenet times. This was a time when everyone believed God was sovereign and much of what went on was whether it was “God’s will” or not. But all the way through the characters will say things like “Christ’s teeth”, “Holy Mother of God” and other phrases that invoke God or Jesus in a way that would not be acceptable to many Christians now. In fact only the other day someone was saying to me that you could tell whether someone was really following God as to whether they “used God’s name in vain” was the phrase used.

Now I am not advocating the use of “Oh my God” etc in speech but I was wondering when we talk of blaspheming what is really meant. Again it seems to be a word that has changed meaning, or rather developed a meaning different from it’s dictionary definition.

Blasphemy is the act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence for (a) God(s), to religious or holy persons or sacred things, or toward something considered sacred or inviolable. Some religions consider blasphemy as a religious crime.

So one could say using God’s name as an expletive is showing contempt or lack of blasphemyreverence but were those Medieval characters doing that? I don’t think they were. In fact the Blasphemy Act of 1650 was only brought in to be used to persecute Catholics during the time of William of Orange and in fact for most of its time was only used to “keep Catholics in their place”. It had nothing to do with saying “Oh God” when either upset or happy about something. In fact this morning I was chatting with a fellow dog walker and he was using “Oh God” as a form of emphasising what he was saying. He wasn’t being disrespectful or showing contempt or lack of reverence for God. He just wanted to make a point stronger.

Previous to the act of 1650 there were other acts but each of them appear to be used to keep some other group in their place and to be able to punish them under the law whether they were Jews or other forms of Christians that the dominant Christian group didn’t like. So it appears to me that the Blasphemy laws were not kind things, not really loving, and I still think God is love.

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which is what it appears from the reasons the laws were put in place. 

So do I agree with the others saying God’s name to make a point? I don’t think I do. But then I also don’t agree with people swearing to make a point. Do I think people are being disrespectful when they use God’s name to make a point? No I don’t. I think it is a way of speech that has been about for hundreds of years. Do I like it? No I don’t. But the question I keep asking myself is why do I not like it? And I keep coming back to the fact that the Christian culture I have been part of for nearly 25 years told me it was wrong and so it has become part of what I think. Do I sometimes use God’s name in a way that isn’t evangelising or praying? Yes I do especially when I get angry. Why? Because sometimes there aren’t enough expressive words to deal with it. So like the Medieval people I have been reading about sometimes I do need to make a point deeper and sometimes that is all there is. Also the other day when there was the most amazing sunset I did also use God’s name to express myself.

And in following on from the Stephen Fry quote I do wonder sometimes if, as with the laws in put in place over the years whether it was from fear rather than having to defend God. I

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giving people what they don’t deserve because He’s God. Can we do that too?

do hope God is big enough to deal with any number of people who use His name not in the way He would prefer. I do also wonder how often He takes it literally and as it says in the Bible, both in Old and New Testament, that those who call on His name He will hear and answer.

In my opinion blasphemy is about disrespecting other people’s belief systems whether Christian of any flavour, Hindu, Jew, Muslim, pagan or whatever. And as I finish I wonder, with things hotting up about this EU voting whether we could all deal with it in a way that does not disrespect other people’s belief systems?

Wait!

21132434-coastal-foamy-seawater-surface-after-the-storm-polluted-dredged-from-the-seabed-sand-stock-photoI’ve been pondering this word all week. I believe God has given me a picture of me being like sand on the sea bed after a storm and that I am just to wait until things settle, find peace in who I am and where I am. I love it but …

And here is the big but … for how long? It got me thinking about Jesus’s disciples waiting in the upper room. We all know the rest of the story. We know how long they had to wait and what happened next but they didn’t. Jesus told them to go to Jerusalem and wait for the Holy Spirit. Yet we also read that when He first appeared to them He breathed the Holy Spirit on to them. I wonder how many of them wondered what they were waiting for! But also I wonder how many of them didn’t wait and just went off and did. You know at this point they know Jesus has upperroom777711risen from the dead and that He says that by following Him they will be connected to God the Father. So … what was there to wait for? Again remember we know the end of the story they didn’t when they went to wait. They did not know that the Holy Spirit that would come then would give them the power to have the courage to go out and defy the authorities, to risk death for what they believed in. It is easy to say that this manifestation of the Holy Spirit helped them heal, etc but when Jesus sent the 77 out whilst he was still alive they came back saying that they had been able to heal and cast out demons. What more did they want? And yet 120 of them waited and …

There is a great deal of waiting in this journey, so much unknowing. There are whole seasons when they feel impatient and confused about why they can’t find the place they are seeking so diligently. Yet it is the very journey through the shadows that is required to make the desired discovery. – From Abbey of the Arts email about Brendan the Navigator – May 15th 2016

The above quote came in Sunday’s email from Abbey of the Arts. It talked about Brendan dancing-brendan-the-navigatorthe Navigator who set off on a peregrinatio, a journey with no direction just trusting that God would lead. In his journey he goes round in circles a lot and realise at the end that he has to let go of self to really see God, and of course sees God in where he is. Yet he sees more. He is hungry in his wanderings and his waitings and his going in circles to wait for what God will reveal.

At the beginning of the year I did a few journallings and blogged on them about the vision and the expectation of things but it feels like there is a waiting for something. It does feel like the journeying through the shadows but for what and for how long. I know this sounds strange when I can say that our room rentals are going amazingly. We have bookings on both rooms through till September. But I know that the room rentals are only a stepping stone to fund this waiting period. I wonder how the disciples funded their waiting period? Who paid for the room they were in? Did they sleep there? Who paid for their food? 120 people is a lot to feed each day! Or did some of them only turn up the day before because it was a celebration time and got the same gift of the Holy Spirit? So many details not told!

So for many this time of Pentecost is a time of excitement, of giving praise for the waiting-for-godbeginnings of the Christian church, for me it has been a time of really looking at these amazing people who were willing to wait and wait for an undetermined time not knowing what would happen next. This waiting is not like waiting for Christmas, or your birthday, or a holiday. Then you know when the date will be. You can count down to it. What would it be like if you didn’t know when something was going to happen and then still waited?

I wonder if the disciples wondered if they would be there forever? I can associate with that. I do wonder if I will be here in this resting/waiting place forever. But then I feel that I have to be willing to accept that as maybe those early disciples did. Maybe they were more than content to just wait because Jesus had told them to?

Friendship – as in Real Friendship

I read this article by Alansi Morissette (Ask Alanis Morissette: since I’ve been ill, I’ve lost contact with many friends) this morning and it brought back memories of a friend who got abandoned by her friends because life was too tough her and they couldn’t cope. It made me cry again and not just her hurt at what she had gone through that they couldn’t cope but my own hurts that I was the only one left standing with her. I did try to tell them that if we stood with our friend together then we could help each other with the crazy stuff she was saying and doing. By standing with her together we could stand with each other together.

aid420832-719px-resume-a-friendship-with-a-long-lost-friend-step-4In the article Alansi says “Your friends aren’t responsible for cheering you up, but they can certainly make dark times more tolerable, even humorous.” I was just going to repost the whole article on FB with the line  “Why can’t we all be true friends to each other?” but there was so much more I felt I had to say.

I know I have written blogs before around the thoughts of  Jesus’ saying “love your neighbour as yourself” but what came to me from this article was – if we can’t be there for our friends can we really be there for ourselves, or do we when we are in pain and hurting hide from ourselves, shut it away in a place and just go. I know of one young man who does that. He’s shut away his pain, won’t talk about it, but is going round causing heartbreak to others. As always I am led back to that place of wondering, of wondering whether those who turn away from the hurt in others, from the sickness in others, actually turn away from it in themselves. I also wonder because this saying of Jesus starts with “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and strength” whether those who turn away really want to love God with all they have? And surely if you love God with all your are, or even with only a part of your heart, mind and strength surely you would be able to stay with someone as they say crazy things, not say anything, just need someone to sit with them?

aid420832-719px-resume-a-friendship-with-a-long-lost-friend-step-3I do struggle now because there are miles between me and a few friends that I have stood with and at times texting or emailing are not enough – not for them or for me. There are times when what is needed is just to sit. Yes that old thing of sitting and being. With my friend I mentioned at the beginning of this piece we would laugh and cry together. It didn’t change what she had to journey through but I’d like to think it made the dark times more tolerable.

 

Be Prepared

be-prepared-boyscoutsSo this is a boy scout motto but also something Jesus said and that was repeated in James’ letter toward the end of the Bible. Jesus said to be prepared because we don’t know when He’s coming back and we should always be ready. James said not to make our own plans because we didn’t know what was round the corner, which to a point is like be prepared for anything.

As you know we have a room that we rent out on Airbnb. It has been bit slow going, as actually it was last year where we use to live – though we have had a whole month with a lovely girl from Malaysia staying which was fun and helped us to see if we were ready for long term lodgers. Anyway she left on Friday and from then we had another Airbnb guest for 2 nights, a young friend who we hadn’t seen in ages and my daughter staying. I spent yesterday washing sheets and towels. And of course the housework didn’t

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Not our backyard though

get done much over the weekend because of friends and family staying so we were doing things, and it was my birthday. So yesterday I started to catch up and today was supposed to be the day for getting on. Well the sun is shining and I just wanted to do other things but I did bits and pieces. I was debating whether to make up the beds, trying to decide if it was better to leave them for a booking or having things sort of ready. I stopped to have a drink having done over an hour’s cleaning and checked my phone. There was a booking asking if I would accept it for tonight!! Well I had prayed earlier in the day that God would send people and had looked at the spaces on the calendar. So I said yes. This did mean that I had to push on and get the Airbnb room cleaned and sorted and also the bits of the house that our guest would pass through. He is arriving within the hour. I had 2 hours to get things sorted.

7eb393d8579853a90ed8c076c79bcd23But to me it very much said to “be ready in season and our of season.” We have chosen to use the Airbnb and, hopefully rent other rooms too, to make some money so that I can stay home and write and be here for whatever. But today I was almost not ready. It has been a bit of a rush, but not too much as I do have time to write this.

I have really felt God saying to me that this is His vision for our home and for it to be my role to prepare it but today I was tired and was thinking of other things. Yes I am blessed that to a point my day is  my own but within that I do have to remember, and have been reminded, that I am meant to keep this house up together for guests coming.

Sometimes I think we all get caught in a rut and get lost in other things, some just other people stuff, that we forget our calling, our vision, and for me that can be the ordinariness of the vision. Mind you for most of us – Christian or not Christian – our callings are to be there for each other, to love each other, to support each other. So for me this afternoon has been a reminder.

And strange though it may seem just doing what I am meant to do has brought me back closer to God. No I haven’t read my Bible or done anything great but I have done what He has said I’m meant to do.